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my frustration with the three ethics

 
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Thank you for clarifying, Jonathan.

 
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:

Fred Morgan wrote:

And perhaps that is what matters - not so much the ethics, as are you getting to the goal of permaculture?



To me the goal of permaculture IS the ethics. The goal of permaculture, to me, is care of the earth and of people, the third ethic is about how to accomplish the first two goals.



Then we are probably in agreement. I am tainted by decades in business.
 
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I think a person could say "I like permaculture. Look, I've made a hugelkultur bed with polyculture." They might even list an open house and say "Come on by and see my permaculture projects." at which point somebody could say "You cannot tell other people that they are permaculture projects unless you have a statement that says you support the permaculture ethics." or "You cannot advertise that you have permaculture projects until you have completed a PDC." Maybe they have never heard of the permaculture ethics. Maybe they have heard of the permaculture ethics and think they are spiffy - but didn't think they had to push the ethics. Maybe they are gonna take a PDC, but it won't be for a few months. Or maybe they never heard of a PDC. And then this person starts to get sour on the whole permaculture thing - it sounds like it comes with baggage.

I think if somebody wanted to call their farm "Bob's Permaculture Farm" or if they were selling "Permaculture Produce" then I think they need to take a PDC before saying this stuff. It seems to me, that's the way the permaculture stuff is set up, and, if nothing else, that would just be respectful to the greater permaculture community.

I think "come by and see my permaculture projects" is fine. Some people are just getting started. Requiring anything about the ethics or a PDC at this point strikes me as excessively militant.

As far as condemning anybody for using the word "permaculture" without the ethics: how do we know that they don't embrace the ethics? Have they said so?

If 400 people move onto Ludi's place and say that Ludi cannot complain because of "care of the people" or "share the surplus", I think those people should not be there unless they get permission from Ludi first and this is mis-interpretation of the ethics.


 
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Fat Charlie wrote:

Dale Hodgins wrote:I make a point of coming up with newer and better ways of sabotaging the efforts of the idle class. I've heard more than enough from these folks,...

Just as I'm not open to changing my ways, most of these people are unwilling to change their's. So I'm facilitating a parting of ways, thus avoiding future conflict. Very permaculturey.


How do you define "the idle class?" --------------------------------------------------------Dale's response--------------------------------------------------------- I was referring to Victoria's druggie population. ----------- They've become quite numerous and a scourge on the community. I've had four vehicle break-ins in three years, so I decided to do my part in moving some of them back to their home cities. I won't ever be offering them any other help. Just the trip. I owe them nothing.

We also have some non-productives who have not found themselves at the bottom of the economic ladder. If I was to list the various professions, which I consider to be of no value whatsoever, this post would surely be deleted immediately. There are also those who simply live on interest or on the money earned by their great grandfather. Many have found a niche which provides them with sustenance without providing the world with anything useful. But these people don't steal from me or destroy my belongings and they would be unlikely to take me up on the offer of a free ride out of town. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I've spoken protesters who seem quite convinced that all of our economic problems would end if only the very rich were stripped of their wealth. Most of these folks are quite mathematically challenged, so I've done some for them.

I searched out the net worth of the 10 wealthiest Americans. Their total wealth amounted to $191 billion dollars. The United States government spends $36 billion every day. So that means that if all of these people were made penniless, their total accumulation could finance the government for 8 days.

It makes sense to make changes to the playing field. It makes no sense at all to reward the very worst players no matter where they fall in the economic spectrum.

 
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Paul,

you raised 2 cases - 1 where you were concerns that people might over-run Ludi's place and try to appropriate it, 1 where they might drive away people who are getting interested in Permaculture. It seems that the common link is that a general statement of principle might be interpreted in ways that are less than perfect. I can see where that might happen, but isn't that something any group has to guard against? And wouldn't that be true of any statement that involves ethics or right or wrong??

Consider the statement 'permaculture is good.' Or the superlative version of that, 'I think permaculture is so good and powerful - it is the thing that can save the world.' Both of these have an ethical component, they both posit permaculture as good. Aren't you scared that such statements will encourage some people to go overboard, and to act in not very nice ways? After all, if permaculture is what can save us, and if land owners are not getting with the program (while the world is going to hell in a handbasket), then some people will inevitably think that those land owners need not only a bit of gentle cajoling, but also serious pressure that graduates to harrassment and bodily injury if their intransigence is going to kill the planet!!! Can't you see that happening? All because you made a general ethical statement that permaculture is good! What about the statement that famine is bad, and that people should work against it? Should churches or humanitarian groups say such a thing, when it might lead to governments that tax people at 100% of what they make, sending the formerly rich off to labor camp gulags in the country side?? My examples are all transparently part of the "slippery-slope" argument, as are your arguments.

Or maybe we can agree that yes, permaculture is very good, but that accepting it as good does not justify wrong conduct in any way, and if someone does engage in bad behavior, it is due to their flawed thought processes, not due to a simple statement of what is good?? The same is true for the ethics of permaculture. If we say that the Earth should be cared for and people should be cared for, and that consumption cannot grow infinitely, that does not green-light bad conduct. The fact that some people might hypothetically interpret the ethics in a way that leads them to act stupidly or evilly is not really about the ethics themselves, but about the fact that permaculture is a human activity, and humans tend to be flawed. There is no system so good that people do not have to be good. The ethics of permaculture do not push people to do wrong, and trying to ignore the ethics, suppress them, or have them removed from the definition of permaculture does no one any good. Instead, we have to engage in these discussions freely and honestly, and use good speech to drive out bad speech, good ideas to drive out bad ideas.
 
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In my opinion there is nothing wrong with the ethics of permaculture, but they do fail to take into account just how bat shit crazy some people are. There are people everywhere that will do mental gymnastics to justify just about anything that they want to justify to themselves. I don't think it matters if they are ethics, principles, rules, laws or if they are rigid, narrow, vague or broad some people will still do what they want and convince themselves they are justified.


paul wheaton wrote:A scenario I worry about is that a farmer has spent the last year trying to ditch chem-ag and embrace permaculture. It's been a lot of hard work but he is beginning to see the light. And then somebody says to him "so you think you are doing permaculture, huh? Recite the three ethics!" "Huh?" "The foundation of permaculture. The ethics. Recite them. Now." "I don't know what you are talking about." "Then you can't call what you are doing permaculture. In fact, until you take a PDC, sing songs to the earth, and participate in a talent show, you cannot call any of this .... this .... stuff you are doing 'permaculture'."

This is a scenario I am very uncomfortable with.



I don't know that a scenario like this would concern me. Most farmers I know or have met are rather staunch and independent. I don't know what some wild eyed radical who wandered onto a farmers land and told him his practice was unethical or not permaculture would be very successful at deterring them. I think a lot of farmers would point the way off their land, shake their heads, and hope that person doesn't / hasn't bred.

As always, this is just my opinion, and I'm probably bat shit crazy...

 
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I see permaculture being the most powerful tool in the toolset of changing the world for the better. And, at the same time, I see it not being able to go anywhere because of massive infighting - and most of the infighting is rooted in the three ethics. And a lot of the posts I see here are proving my point (and these posts are gentle and respectful).



Just keep doing what you're doing, Paul, because you do it so well, and don't spend even a nanosecond worrying about this stuff. No two people on this planet will ever follow the three ethics, or the 95 theses, or any other set of rules, principles, or whatever, in exactly the same manner, or for the same reasons anyway. Let's just all do the best we can and let our works speak for themselves.
 
Fred Morgan
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If there is a buck to be made, or an ego to be stroked, you can be assured people will come and try to twist anything good to their own purposes. You can't get rid of sociopaths and narcissists from society completely.

Do what you do, and prove that it works, then people who wish to improve things will emulate it.

A new day is coming, whether people like it or not, of limited resources. Those who adapt, will do well, those who don't, will collapse.
 
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Are there two different 3rd ethics?

Is it (a) Setting limits to population and consumption
or (b) Share the wealth ?

Or is it, do (a) so you can then do (b)?
 
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paul wheaton wrote:I think a person could say "I like permaculture. Look, I've made a hugelkultur bed with polyculture." They might even list an open house and say "Come on by and see my permaculture projects." at which point somebody could say "You cannot tell other people that they are permaculture projects unless you have a statement that says you support the permaculture ethics." or "You cannot advertise that you have permaculture projects until you have completed a PDC." Maybe they have never heard of the permaculture ethics. Maybe they have heard of the permaculture ethics and think they are spiffy - but didn't think they had to push the ethics. Maybe they are gonna take a PDC, but it won't be for a few months. Or maybe they never heard of a PDC. And then this person starts to get sour on the whole permaculture thing - it sounds like it comes with baggage.

I think if somebody wanted to call their farm "Bob's Permaculture Farm" or if they were selling "Permaculture Produce" then I think they need to take a PDC before saying this stuff. It seems to me, that's the way the permaculture stuff is set up, and, if nothing else, that would just be respectful to the greater permaculture community.

I think "come by and see my permaculture projects" is fine. Some people are just getting started. Requiring anything about the ethics or a PDC at this point strikes me as excessively militant.

As far as condemning anybody for using the word "permaculture" without the ethics: how do we know that they don't embrace the ethics? Have they said so?

If 400 people move onto Ludi's place and say that Ludi cannot complain because of "care of the people" or "share the surplus", I think those people should not be there unless they get permission from Ludi first and this is mis-interpretation of the ethics.




I don't think there's a need for a person to recite the 3 ethics or sign a declaration in order to be recognised as a "permaculturist". Conversely, no matter how loudly a person professes to be embracing the three ethics, all their words are worthless if we look at their land and we see it's a monoculture of some GM crop.

Whether or not a person abides by the ethics of permaculture should be fairly obvious from what their plot of land and household looks like.

They abide by the first ethic if they adopt regenerative and close-loop practices on their land and provide a habitat for "non-productive" plants and animals that contribute to biodiversity.

They abide by the second ethic if their family is properly looked-after and they are nice to their neighbours and care about the community in which they live.

And finally they abide by the third ethic possibly by giving away surplus, but above all by making sure that their own produce or income can actually provide for their own needs and those of their progeny. If they rely on child benefit or state subsidies or any type of subsidised consumption in order to finance their way of life, in my book they have not yet graduated on ethic #3.

I'm not saying that one should be judged in black-or-white terms on their performance on the ethics - I recognise that each of us may be at a different stage on the continuum from "very bad / non-compliant" to "good / compliant" to "excellent / exceeded expectations". We may need to look at where a person stood say a year or several years ago and where that person is today - we may find that s/he is progressing nicely towards a better compliance with the ethics.

But I think the ethics do have a very precise meaning. They are not just empty words that one can twist and interpret as one wishes.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I don't personally see the ethics as something one uses to judge other people. I see the ethics as a standard against which one judges one's own behavior as a permaculturist. That being a permaculturist means one is using the ethics as the basis of one's actions, because permaculture is itself based on the ethics.

 
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paul wheaton wrote:I think if somebody wanted to call their farm "Bob's Permaculture Farm" or if they were selling "Permaculture Produce" then I think they need to take a PDC before saying this stuff. It seems to me, that's the way the permaculture stuff is set up, and, if nothing else, that would just be respectful to the greater permaculture community.





Paul,

Can you explain why? What if they are self-taught geniuses who have created the Garden of Eden on their land and are "complying" with all the ethics and principles of permaculture, yet they have never attended a PDC?

L_
 
Jonathan Byron
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Good question, Shawn.

In David Holmgren's book "Permaculture: Principles and pathways beyond sustainability" he starts with ethics as chapter 1. He states the third general principle or maxim as "Set limits to consumption and reproduction, and redistribute surplus." He says "This requires us to stimulate or fund the provision of needs beyond those of ourselves." He does not provide one simple way of achieving this, but brings up a number of different frameworks to start discussing the issue. I do not know if 'fairshare' is a good summary term, though I would argue that when people are dying from famine or easily preventable diseases while others sit on heaps of food that goes to waste, then the system is sub-optimal and human needs are not being properly addressed.

In an interview with Bill Mollison, he states that Permaculture is more than just technology, and that technology that is disconnected from ethics usually ends up feeding sociopathology. Again, I would agree with this, and suggest that the real reason people object to Monsanto is exactly this - the technology is being called into existence and implemented only to boost profits, with no consideration of other effects.

Others have describe the 3rd principle as 'investing in the first 2 principles', 'paying it forward to the Earth and people' or 'keeping the gift moving'.
 
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According to Bill Mollison, the only restriction on use of the word "permaculture" is in teaching, and anyone can use it as long as they adhere to the ethics and principles.

Reference: "Permaculture: a designers manual"
 
Tyler Ludens
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Levente Andras wrote:
And finally they abide by the third ethic possibly by giving away surplus, but above all by making sure that their own produce or income can actually provide for their own needs and those of their progeny. If they rely on child benefit or state subsidies or any type of subsidised consumption in order to finance their way of life, in my book they have not yet graduated on ethic #3.



That seems kind of harsh. For instance if an old man works in his garden every day to try to raise some food, but relies on state health insurance and church charity to keep from dying, he is less ethical than the healthy young man who happens to have a good job selling cars, say, or doing something with computers but because he doesn't need any help (being young, healthy, and happening to have a good job), he's more permaculturally ethical than the old man? Using this standard, just being fortunate to have a good-paying job automatically makes someone more permaculturally ethical , because they don't need any kind of obvious help, never mind that they probably enjoy all kinds of other state subsidized benefits unless they never buy food from the store, use grid power, or drive on the roads.
 
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I've enjoyed much of the discussion and wanted to respond to Paul's initial concern that the three permaculture ethics are doing the movement more harm than good. As someone who is fairly new to a study of permaculture principles and techniques and very new to this community, I've found this discussion of the three ethics important. I'm very glad it has been able to meet the high permies.com bar of "be nice" and survive as long as it has, particularly as I am inclined to the view that a community is largely defined by its set of shared values/ethics, that its long-term viability can depend on how deeply understood and shared those ethics are and that discussion about the application of those ethics can be a vital community function.

I gather it is a problem that some people adopt their own reading of the permaculture ethics and utilize it not as a guide to their own choices, but as a weapon to enforce their preferences for how others act or as a defense against charges that their own behavior is unacceptable or even criminal. I don't think this very human behavior, as obnoxious as it can be, is particularly unique to the permaculture community. Its prevalence in the political sphere is a good reason to avoid excessive exposure to the news. If, as I suspect, this behavior occurs in all kinds of communities, then it is not surprising if the permaculture ethics are too fine-grained a tool to work an effective response. At least if you define effective as reforming those who would misuse the ethics for their selfish purposes. So various thieves and chem-ag hacks aren't deterred by words, even ethical words. That is a failure of the three ethics? Only if you expect more than words can deliver.

Paul, I count myself among your group 1--trying to do good permaculture stuff for the world. You have done a tremendous service in hosting/moderating these forums and putting up all those wonderful podcasts; you've convinced me permaculture is the way to go. Thank you. I have also benefitted from the positive feedback of the one person in my small local community that has long experience learning and utilizing permaculture principles and feel that her support is much more potent than the blank stares I get from some organic folks when I talk about what new directions I'm heading in. I can see that they just don't get it. I don't feel you need to be so worried that intellectual property thieves and sanctimonious pseudo-permaculture twits will dissuade me from the path. Maybe I'm too sanguine, but I'd advise against dropping mention of the ethics based on that perceived threat. It seems a vital part of this permaculture stuff is being a close observer of nature. Do more, not less, to cultivate a deep understanding of the ethics and their application and we'll all be better equipped to see who is more into self interest and who is more concerned with serving the interests of the earth.
 
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Speaking of chem-ag people and their ethics, in the early 2000's I spoke with an Australian farmers' representative. We talked about tilling, erosion and irrigation, and his message was that things had changed and were continuing to change in mainstream ag, and that farmers were tilling less, and having less erosion as a result. Either he or someone else told me that farmers were learning to be much more efficient in water use, drastically reducing irrigation and water seepage in raising certain crops like rice and cotton, and reducing the problems with soil salinity that often come from irrigation. (Not to mention the stress on the rivers.)

He was part of mainstream ag, so he'd qualify as "chem-ag," but I have no doubt that he was genuine, and indeed that those working on such changes are doing enormous good. They're just changing a lot of farms a bit, whereas permaculturists tend to change a small patch of farmland, but change it a lot.

Then there's a more controversial case: RoundUp-ready GMO's. We tend to hear one side of this, that this has resulted in an increase in chemical use. But the chemical they are using more of - Roundup - is apparently much less toxic than the ones they used to use, so arguably it's an improvement.

Also think back to the predictions of famine and hundreds of millions of deaths, that were made in the second half of the 20th century. That never came about, because of the "Green Revolution" - developments in the chem-ag field. We'd all like to see a "Greener Revolution" involving soil microbiology and sensitivity to ecosystems, rather than chemicals and imposing our will on the soil... but still, saving hundreds of millions of people is no small thing.

I don't believe that everyone on the other side of the fence wears a black hat or deliberately twists the truth.

Just my personal opinion - doesn't represent any organization I'm affiliated with.
 
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Chris Watkins wrote:Speaking of chem-ag people and their ethics, in the early 2000's I spoke with an Australian farmers' representative. We talked about tilling, erosion and irrigation, and his message was that things had changed and were continuing to change in mainstream ag, and that farmers were tilling less, and having less erosion as a result. Either he or someone else told me that farmers were learning to be much more efficient in water use, drastically reducing irrigation and water seepage in raising certain crops like rice and cotton, and reducing the problems with soil salinity that often come from irrigation. (Not to mention the stress on the rivers.)

He was part of mainstream ag, so he'd qualify as "chem-ag," but I have no doubt that he was genuine, and indeed that those working on such changes are doing enormous good. They're just changing a lot of farms a bit, whereas permaculturists tend to change a small patch of farmland, but change it a lot.

Then there's a more controversial case: RoundUp-ready GMO's. We tend to hear one side of this, that this has resulted in an increase in chemical use. But the chemical they are using more of - Roundup - is apparently much less toxic than the ones they used to use, so arguably it's an improvement.

Also think back to the predictions of famine and hundreds of millions of deaths, that were made in the second half of the 20th century. That never came about, because of the "Green Revolution" - developments in the chem-ag field. We'd all like to see a "Greener Revolution" involving soil microbiology and sensitivity to ecosystems, rather than chemicals and imposing our will on the soil... but still, saving hundreds of millions of people is no small thing.

I don't believe that everyone on the other side of the fence wears a black hat or deliberately twists the truth.

Just my personal opinion - doesn't represent any organization I'm affiliated with.




Any progress in the "greener" direction is good.

The "saving of hundreds of millions of people" is indeed no small thing, but if a famine had occured as predicted, it would have been a consequence of an overstretch of the population (i.e., more people than the land can feed). So an "intervention" like the Green Revolution brings about only a postponement of an unpleasant but natural outcome of the unchecked demographic growth. It saved us temporarily and allowed us to multiply even further, and at the same time caused serious environmental degradation.

A "greener revolution" is long overdue

 
Levente Andras
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:

Levente Andras wrote:
And finally they abide by the third ethic possibly by giving away surplus, but above all by making sure that their own produce or income can actually provide for their own needs and those of their progeny. If they rely on child benefit or state subsidies or any type of subsidised consumption in order to finance their way of life, in my book they have not yet graduated on ethic #3.



That seems kind of harsh. For instance if an old man works in his garden every day to try to raise some food, but relies on state health insurance and church charity to keep from dying, he is less ethical than the healthy young man who happens to have a good job selling cars, say, or doing something with computers but because he doesn't need any help (being young, healthy, and happening to have a good job), he's more permaculturally ethical than the old man? Using this standard, just being fortunate to have a good-paying job automatically makes someone more permaculturally ethical , because they don't need any kind of obvious help, never mind that they probably enjoy all kinds of other state subsidized benefits unless they never buy food from the store, use grid power, or drive on the roads.




Let's compare like with like. I.e., compare the young person in your story with one of the same age who somehow never manages to hold down a decent job, is spending more than he earns, and has already procreated one or two children whom he and his spouse are unable to feed.

And to try and answer your concern about old people, let me rephrase my original statement: " ... making sure that their own produce or income can actually provide for their own needs and those of their dependants." That takes care of old people who cannot work any longer. We should see ethic #3 with its implications for both individuals and communities - it places a demand on those fit for work, while providing a safety net for the weak and old. That gives you a hint as to the direction in which the shared surplus should be flowing.

In more traditional - or socially healthier - communities, old people are looked after by their extended family and their neighbours. So they have safety nets other than - or beyond - state pensions or health insurance. But those communities are guided by the same ethics as #2 and #3 in our discussion. They care about their neighbour, and they share the surplus.

L_
 
Chris Watkins
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Levente Andras wrote:The "saving of hundreds of millions of people" is indeed no small thing, but if a famine had occured as predicted, it would have been a consequence of an overstretch of the population (i.e., more people than the land can feed). So an "intervention" like the Green Revolution brings about only a postponement of an unpleasant but natural outcome of the unchecked demographic growth. It saved us temporarily and allowed us to multiply even further, and at the same time caused serious environmental degradation.



True.

The most effective way to slow down or stop population growth is to educate women, as I understand it. I don't mean "don't have babies" education - I mean finishing school, and opportunities for higher education. As their options improve, they're much less likely to marry in their teens and have lots of kids.

So perhaps the most sustainable thing we can do, and the best thing for global food security, is to support women's education.
 
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I can't take credit for this one ... but I think it says it all ... ' Its not about being right, its about doing right'

Cheers

 
Shawn Bell
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Thanks Jonathon.

I like the three ethics, but I understand Paul's frustration (I think).

The world needs to change really, really quickly. The more people who embrace Permaculture's growing philosophy,
the better off the world will be.

However, if the three ethics turn off a significant portion of would be practitioners, are they doing more harm than good?
And I know plenty of people who would refuse to read the design manual because of the rainbow snake on the cover.
Narrow-minded? Yes, but unfortunate.

In an effort to get more people to change more quickly, it seems re-branding is needed. It is the difference between rapeseed oil and canola oil.
Please keep in mind, that I don't have any problem with the permaculture 'brand'.

Maybe quick and easy actions are easier to use to get the general public involved. Hey, it is "National Plant a Fruit Tree in Your Backyard Day!"
Not really permaculture, but if there were a million fruit trees planted in peoples backyards that would be great.

Maybe someone could start a Perennial Garden Club, package a couple of fruit trees, berry bushes, perennial veggies and flowers, and show
people how to save time and money while growing food.

They don't need to know that it is permaculture, or that it is a guild, or that you used all three ethics while helping them.
 
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I think there is a very real danger that pushing the ethics *is* going to put people off.

For instance, my village is mostly populated by elderly people, mostly illiterate. But when their families come to visit they include some highly educated, ethical, motivated people. One family in particular is composed mostly of doctors, but they have a close tie with the land and one of the grandchildren has a degree in organic agriculture. This whole family is fascinated with my experiments on the farm. They don't visit often, but they will swap advice and pick my brains about the effects of mulching (which is directly opposed to the governments advice to 'clean' all the land) and when I showed them Brad Lancaster's book about water harvesting they insisted that I learn and experiment as much as I could and let them know the results.

But if I mention the word permaculture they back off in horror as they think it's something to do with planting by the moon. And I would never dare mention ethics to them - they already devote their whole lives to helping other people and caring for their own land and would be highly offended if I were to say anything which might imply that their own ethics were in some way lacking. To them, and to most people around here, to suggest such a thing would be a gross insult - to be a 'good person' is a fundamental part of what it takes to be accepted as a member of a Portuguese village, and anyone who doesn't measure up is shunned.
 
Jonathan Byron
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Burra - it's not about preaching ethics to people that see themselves as devoted to doing good. Just like it is not about preaching conservation to people who are already committed to conserving. In both cases, it is about recognizing that people want to do right by the land and right by other people - and sharing techniques, observations, philosophies, and aspirations.


However, if the three ethics turn off a significant portion of would be practitioners, are they doing more harm than good?



IF the ethics were turning off millions of people, then that would be doing more harm than good. I am not convinced that this is the case. The ethics that I have seen written and discussed have been fairly low key, generally non-confrontational. Someone hinted at the rainbow art on the book and the hippy-dippy reputation that permaculture has as being a problem. Maybe we should purge the hippies and institute a dress code (on a region by region basis) to make permaculture more acceptable to the masses?? And couldn't we extend the appeal of permaculture by doing other things to make conventional farmers feel more welcomed - maybe we should be promoting the 'careful, limited' use of pesticides or sponsoring tractor pulls??

 
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Ethics can be a very muddy ground but is an IMPORTANT discussion to have. The problem I have seen with all the examples put forward regarding the chem-ag industry being able to claim they are being ethical are really only possible if you view the ethics with tunnel vision rather than seeing the whole. As an example the claim to be using the least land ignores soil degradation, food quality degradation, loss of environmental diversity, loss of wildlife habitat etc... The claim of feeding the most people cheaply ignores epidemic obeisity, forcing smaller farmers off the land, contaminating streams and other waterways with fertilizers creating algal blooms and dead zones in the oceans. As for limiting population and sharing the excess, the chem-ag people have participated in the greatest population explosion going and share nothing, they rape the land to line their pockets going as far as to make it illegal for farmers to save their own seed so they can force them to buy (that isn't share) more seed from them.

Discussing ethics doesn't need to be done in a holier than thou fashion. Many older people actually appreciate such discussions as it permits them to pass on their accumulated wisdom. Discussions can look at how to keep farmers on the land, how to keep the land productive, how diversity provides a buffer against environmental variation, how to conserve and even grow soil, what happens when there are too many people and so on. The approach to the discussion is at least as important as the discussion itself.

Lastly, anyone saying "you're not doing permiculture if you don't know the ethics" doesn't understand the nature of permiculture themselves. They are lacking respect for whomever they are talking to and displaying the lack of ethics the chem-ag people show by having tunnel vision. Permaculture is about the whole, not any 1 aspect. Especially in cultures that have moved away from a close association with the land an explicit discussion of ethics is needed.
 
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Wow, so many opinions with such variety. I'd like to share my own if I can. My interest in permaculture and sustainable living in all it's incarnations is fairly new and I have little experience (I'm not in a position to be implementing much of anything at the moment, long story) so my opinion may not be as valid as those of others but I feel that my lack of experience offers something as well.

In my time researching permaculture I have only stumbled across the ethics maybe once or twice before this thread and paid them no mind. I've always looked at permaculture as a particular method utilizing various 'sustainable' or 'alternative' practices in order to build a system with long term sustainability resembling a miniature (or not so miniature) ecosystem. I always thought that permaculture was founded on the idea of having all aspects and systems of a garden/farm/what have you feed into one another, supporting one another, and eliminating or reducing negative effects wherever and whenever possible. Maybe this is pure ignorance on my part but this is what I have gathered in my short time absorbing information from the internet and friends.

The 3 ethics are quite noble in my opinion and I certainly would think that permaculture systems to some extent would utilize them inherently by the nature of the method/system but I do not believe that intentional adherence or recognition of these ethics is not necessary to the practice. In this case I might look at the ethics as a major part of permaculture as a lifestyle and even a philosophy, but not necessary to the actual practice of the method/system.

In the end I think this is largely a semantic debate. If, in the end, my practices (or intended practices) are sustainable, "green", and help to improve both the environment and the lives of myself and those around, I don't suppose it matters what you call it. If I call it permaculture and you call it sustainable agriculture, it doesn't change the fact of what I'm doing, just the name.

A rose by any other name, right?

(By the by, this is my first post on this forum and I am unbelievably excited. A friend suggested this site to me earlier tonight and I can already tell that it will consume my existence for days to come and be an integral reference for, well, ever hopefully. I really look forward to learning from and interacting with you all in the future. )

(In other news; I actually posted this as a new topic at first. Color me embarrassed...)
 
pollinator
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Paul and Kelda talk about permaculture ethics, social justice, and the bigger picture in this podcast: podcast
 
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The Greek philosophers had an ongoing debate about how we should look at our world. Some believed the world should be pursued through defining the Universals, which were the overarching grand ideas of the 'why' of everything. Some believed the Universals should be defined through the Particulars, which were sort of the low level 'whats' that they were observing.

Christians (as Paul would say I sign up for the Jesus package) believe that the teachings of Jesus are the core to not only how we should live our lives, but to the character of God himself. Jesus even chastised some of his followers once because someone was doing good works in His name but wasn't on board with Him. He told his disciples that if you do good things in His name then you are on His side.

When I first started looking into permaculture I didn't care about the ethics. Most people will not care initially. It is the observable that moves people, not the reason for the observable. It is not until someone notices the particulars and asks your universals that the ethics should be revealed. Christians are supposed to live a life that causes others to ask the why, not to ram the why down their throats. Christians can't hold non-Christians up to our standards. We can't judge them. Maybe permaculture should do the same.

Ultimately, Americans make choices in the food realm based upon a tripod of 'ethics.' They are taste, convenience, and cost. If you can show them how those three are affected in their favor, the ethics will come as part of the package.
 
                                
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I wonder sometimes if ethics, over the course of history, haven't spent more time justifying wrong-doing than guiding right-doing. And just while typing that sentence, right now, I realized that "wrongdoing" is a word in English, but "rightdoing" isn't. Pity that. I hereby coin "rightdoing" in hopes that it will spread.

So I guess I would be with Paul on this. If we try to use ethics -- which should be in air quotes -- to get what we want, we have to accept that there are as many definitions and interpretations as there are people. It's why Jewish law, the Torah, is short... and the Talmud, the interpretation, is the size of an encyclopedia. I figure any attempt to spread permaculture on ethical grounds is like other Congressmen accusing Newt Gingrich of ethics violations. Who am I to judge anyone else's motives? My motives, my principles... they're mine. I guide myself by them, most of the time... and I can teach them to my kids, just because they're mine, and they're young and impressionable. That's about it.


Thus, when it comes to chem-ag, I don't see it as an ethics discussion. It's a "this shit is poison, it's dangerous, and you're killing us and the wildlife" discussion. Which isn't really a discussion; it's fact. It didn't take long to figure it out. "Silent Spring" was written before I was born. We knew that chem-ag was causing serious harm, even genetic harm, before one generation (of humans) had gone by. Now it's 3,4 generations later; still we spray&pray. I think we'll find that it's not ethics humans have a problem with -- it's logic. Basic, simple logic. "Hey, let's spray this poison on our food and then eat it!" Ethics don't begin to enter in to it. That requires a higher functioning set of synapses than humanity, collectively, is capable of yet.

Mollison talks about something beyond ethics, beyond principles, yet simpler. Directives. Here's a list of stuff to do -- adapt it to your situation, and start doing. Here's a manual of ideas and techniques. Start using them. Doesn't matter what your religion, your morality, your ethics, your motives. Just get your shovel and get busy.

Leaves a lot less room for semantics, doesn't it?

 
                    
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Sounds like there's a lot of concern over the Ethics going the way that "Organic" did -- become standardized, commoditized, governmentized, corporationized, and finally completely subverted. The end product is exactly opposite of what the beginning idea tried to be. Since it happened to Organic, it could conceivably happen to Permaculture.

While I respect the Ethics, I like S.O.L.E. better as a way to explain and guide what I do.

Sustainable
Organic
Local
Ethical
 
pollinator
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golly, guess I would just rather do my best with my property and my life and not TAG myself with a LABEL rather than be judged by anyone who thinks they know better about how I should live than I do.
 
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Great post Tim.

My personal opinion of the ethics is that they are intentionally broad and vague. This opens up permaculture to all kinds of people who interpret the ethics individually as it applies to them. Diversity is good, its one of the principles of permaculture. By having a mix of people who are interested in what I call "social permaculture" and "technical permiculture" the movement is stronger and appeals to a larger base of support.

For this reason, I don't think we should apply our own interpretation of the ethics to others. As Tim said, you use the ethics in your own life to show a better way to others; don't force them to accept your version of what the better way is.

Sure, there will be some people who may do some unethical things and use the ethics to justify themselves, but that's human reality. Usually the worst human tragedies resulted from somebody doing what they though was for the greater good (often by forcing those they were "helping" to accept their version of what is best).
 
Dale Hodgins
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I was out banging on doors this afternoon, trying to drum up some tree service business in the Haultain neighborhood of Victoria. There seems to be plenty of activism amongst residents. There were signs asking me to join an anti pipeline group, signs asking me to drive slowly, little rainbow stickers on windows and bumper stickers with whale, Tibet, recycling themes. All of these things are meant to implore the passerby to learn about and adopt the ethics of the person who displayed the sign. The anti oil sign sat near the owner's SUV.

One house had no signs of any kind and it was obvious to me that the owners were do it yourselfers who would not require my services. But I had to bang on the door. The whole yard was managed for food production and a big hugelkultur bed dominated the view from the street. Jordan, the young fellow who answered the door is the founder of Victoria's Permaculture Facebook group. He's a very sharp guy and a great spokesperson for Permaculture. I'm going to be producing lots of wood waste in the area and we're going to offer it to others who want to build beds or who need it for home heating. --- I saw dozens of signs which are a substitute for what people say. One look at Jordan's place told me that this house contained someone worth getting to know. His actions spoke louder than words. We talked about his plantings and our mutual interest in several other things. The ethics were on his lawn and didn't need to be discussed.
 
author
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So true Dale. I am so bored of peoples causes. People talk so much that their actions have nothing to say. Amazing how the true leader just leads by doing.
 
gardener
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I was attracted to Mollison's ideas because he defined an energetic basis (i.e. caloric) for his ethics. Systems must capture and store more energy than required for their creation. The capture and storage of energy (or the energy-like elements of cultural systems) is the measurable manifestation of the ethics. I just try to make ecosystems and cultures capture and store energy better. I have give up on trying to be "part of permaculture", and I expect the American PC sub-culture and brand to fade in time, while the Mollison principles and theories and frameworks (borrowed from his elders) grow and transform, but I like hanging out with PC people because they often have interesting ideas.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:
I suspect a chem ag company could say:

earth care: optimizing food production per acre so less land is needed to ....
people care: feed the people of the world
fair share / limits: working hard to improve income of all people involved in ag. new RR technology has reduced the consumption of chemicals overall

My point is that if embracing the ethics does not set a clear path away from chem ag, then these words aren't helping.



http://www.monsanto.com/whoweare/Pages/our-commitments.aspx

- Sustainable Agriculture
– Human Rights
– Corporate Giving
 
Paul Cereghino
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"I’d come into town from the bush – after 28 years of field work in natural systems – and become an academic. So I turned my attention to humans, much as I had to possums in the forests. Humans were my study animal now – I set up night watches on them, and I made phonograms of the noises they make. I studied their cries, and their contact calls, and their alarm signals. I never listened to what they were saying – I watched what they were doing, which is really the exact opposite of the Freuds and Jungs and Adlers.

I soon got to know my animal fairly well – and I found out that it didn’t matter what they were saying. What they were doing was very interesting, but it had no relation whatsoever to either what they were saying, or what questions they could answer about what they were doing. No relationship. Anyone who ever studied mankind by listening to them was self-deluded. The first thing they should have done was to answer the question, "Can they report to you correctly on their behavior?" And the answer is, "No, the poor bastards cannot."



http://www.context.org/iclib/ic28/mollison/

The beauty of the permaculture approach to design is that a system (including the people in it) can be observed and evaluated without an intermediary. You can observe the behavior of the system, and from that determine if it is meeting ecological criteria concerning its use of energy, water, nutrients, and its ability to reproduce itself. We will all struggle and squirm under this kind of ruthlessness assessment for generations to come. It cannot be faked with words.
 
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